WHITESVILLE, W.Va. — Even the birds were silent Sunday.
A quietness engulfed this hollow on the fifth anniversary of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion, where 29 miners perished and mine safety finally came to the forefront.
Along W.Va. 3 — Coal River Road — American flags blew in the breeze Sunday. Debris from recent flooding was visible from the road, and the Big Coal River rapidly flowed. At the memorial simple wreaths were placed to remember the miners and mourners placed small trinkets under the words echoing Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest.” Twenty-nine silhouettes of miners are standing with hard hats on ready to go underground.
Women and men stopped and bowed their heads. A few made the sign of the cross; others just whispered a prayer or gently touched the memorial before walking on. Some returned to their cars and drove off; others sat in the open looking up at the soon-to-be verdant mountains. Ironically, those mountains are why miners continue to go underground.
It could be argued the mourners were pilgrims, travelers on a journey to a holy place. Five miles from the memorial site is the actual mine where the worst mining disaster in four decades occurred…